Obesity in Latinx and white U.S. military Veterans: Mental health, psychosocial burden, non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior

Abstract: Obesity disproportionately affects Latinx communities and is linked to an increased risk of mental health problems. Military veterans are more likely to develop mental health problems, but the role of Latinx ethnicity in moderating the association between obesity and these problems is unclear. To address this gap, this study examined psychiatric and psychosocial correlates of obesity in a nationally representative sample of Latinx and White U.S. military veterans. Data were analyzed from the 2019-2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, which surveyed 3524 Latinx and White veterans. Analyses revealed that Latinx ethnicity moderated associations between obesity and several measures. Specifically, among veterans with obesity, Latinx veterans had higher rates of major depression, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, drug use disorders, non-suicidal self-injury, and higher levels of childhood trauma, loneliness, and hostility relative to White veterans. These findings underscore the importance of culturally sensitive prevention and treatment efforts to help mitigate symptoms of internalizing disorders, drug use disorder, loneliness, and hostility, and to cultivate psychosocial resources such as resilience and coping self-efficacy among Latinx veterans with obesity.

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